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It looks like we have a rivalry in the 2017 MotoAmerica Series with a heated exchange taking place in today's post-Motul Superbike press conference between race winner Toni Elias and yesterday's winner Cameron Beaubier at the Suzuki ECSTAR Championship at Road Atlanta.
The war of words started yesterday when Elias was angered by Beaubier's pass in the final corner that pushed Elias onto the grass on the exit of Turn 12. Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing's Elias said yesterday he had a long memory, but he didn't need it as he retaliated quickly in today's second race, moving over on Beaubier on the run down to Turn 12, then touching his helmet and looking back at his new rival. The two exchanged words prior to the winner's circle celebration and that spilled over to the press conference.
"I got a decent drive up the hill coming into the last corner and Toni [Elias] looked back and was off the gas a little bit, so I just went to the outside to brake and he moved over on me, hard," Beaubier said. "I knew it was because of yesterday's incident in the last corner. He looked back at me and shook his head. I felt like I didn't do anything wrong so I just told him I wasn't in the wrong there. I was wondering why he was tapping his helmet after the race finished, and he said he has memory, or something like that. At the end of the day I have memory about all the crap he did last year. I still have respect for the guy, but I'm not going to respect someone that doesn't respect us out on the racetrack, plain and simple."
To that, Elias responded.
"It's very simple," the Spaniard said. "Yesterday I was clean also, like it has been today, but I received [two] hits and went in the grass. I could [race] harder, but I don't need it. We can play clean, and not like this. Me and Roger [Hayden] today we had a big battle, and we have been clean [with] each other. We play clean. But, if we have to play a little bit more dirty that is my strongest point, and I'm also strong in strategy. If you [Beaubier] want to come here like this [aggressive], let's do it. No problem. You are a good rider and you don't need to do it like that. We love to play hard and want to put on a good show. That is my goal."
As for the race itself, it was another thriller with five riders at the front early, a battle that whittled down to three late in the race. Elias ended up beating his Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Roger Hayden by just .308 of a second with Beaubier and his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory R1 just another .256 of a second behind in third.
"Yesterday I feel like I wasn't aggressive enough, and it kind of cost me late," Hayden said after finishing second. "So today I just wanted to be a little more aggressive and I felt like I could do (one minute, 25 second) lap times maybe in the beginning a do a little faster (pace) than yesterday. I wanted to lead and I could barely pass Toni (Elias) on the brakes. I don't think I've ever passed him under the brakes, so I liked that. I feel like we're getting better and getting that part of the bike better because that's where he's really strong. Cameron (Beaubier) came by me at the end and I got him back. I tried to close in on Toni as much as I could on the last lap, but it wasn't enough. He was strong those last couple laps. Overall it was a good race and I gave it everything I had, so I'm happy with it."
Josh Herrin rode his Helmet Sounds/Western Services/Meen Racing Yamaha to fourth, some five seconds behind the lead trio and six seconds ahead of fifth-placed Kyle Wyman on the Excelsus Solutions/Lucas Oils/KWR Yamaha YZF-R1.
Sixth place went to M4 ECSTAR Suzuki's Jake Lewis, a spot that put him on top of the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 podium. The win was Lewis' first in the class and first in his MotoAmerica career.
"I got a real good start. I was like fifth or sixth, the first (Superstock) behind the Superbikes," Lewis said. "I was really close to them and then (Bobby) Fong came past me, and I just stuck right on him. Honestly, my bike was so good at the beginning of the race so I just followed him because his bike was moving around a lot compared to yesterday. (Kyle) Wyman passed me and Fong on the straightaway and for some reason Bobby (Fong) was way on the inside going into Turn 10. He had the thing going sideways, got on the curb and tucked the front end and Mathew (Scholtz) bike I think stopped. Those were my two biggest competitors and when I looked back I saw (Jake) Gagne. I didn't even know where the next Superstock battle was, so it was honestly really hard because there was still 14 laps to go, so I backed it down a notch to just ride at that pace and watch my pit board. Gagne was gaining on me, but then we kind of stayed even. On the last lap, I was running out of gas, which happened to me in both races at COTA and yesterday. Today it was even worse because I started running out on the back straightaway with two laps to go. The whole last lap I was going into the corners so hard to just coast. Luckily, I made it around to the finish to grab my first MotoAmerica win."
Lewis benefitted by the non-finish of championship points leader Fong and yesterday's winner Scholtz. Fong crashed his Quicksilver Latus Motors Racing Kawasaki early in the race and Scholtz went out with a mechanical on his Yamalube/Westby Racing Yamaha R1. That means Lewis is now tied with Fong for the lead in the championship with 70 points, five clear of Scholtz.
As for the Motul Superbike class points, Elias leads the championship by 26 points after his third win in four races over Beaubier and Hayden, 95-69, with those two tied for second. Herrin is fourth in points with 43 points.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki's Valentin Debise won his second career MotoAmerica Supersport race today at Road Atlanta, the Frenchman turning the tables on yesterday's winner Garrett Gerloff and the Monster/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha. Again, Gerloff's teammate JD Beach finished third.
"More motivated [today] I don't think so because yesterday I was pushing everything I had, and today (as well)," Debise said. "I think we made a little move on the bike this morning and that helped me a lot. I was able to be much more persistent. So I think compared to yesterday the pace was a little bit faster [today], but Garrett (Gerloff) and JD (Beach) were able to follow me. They were tight to me and I had a plan, different than yesterday of course because it didn't work. I went a little more wide on the back straight and Garrett was able to go outside of me. He went inside of me but because he was so wide he wasn't able to brake as hard as me, so I make the pass. I tried to brake as late as I can in the final corner and he wasn't able to overtake me again. I'm really happy to get this win because I was looking forward to (getting) more wins this year."
With his first win of the season, Debise moves to the lead in the championship over Gerloff, 65-61, with Beach third on 57 points.
For the second straight day it was M4 medAge Suzuki's Nick McFadden taking victory in the Superstock 600 class over yesterday's third-place finisher Michael Gilbert on the Team MG55 Yamaha. Yesterday's second-place finisher Jason Aguilar was third today on his Aguilar Racing Yamaha R6.
"We had a good gap at the end of race one, so we approached today with the same strategy and it worked out for us," McFadden said. "We got away on the first couple laps with the Supersport guys and tried to stay in tow with them as long as I could. I just get away with them early so at the end of the race if someone is with me I can handle them one on one instead of a big group of guys. In the Superstock Class a bunch of guys stick together at the front and it gets a little hectic, so I like to get away and get out of the mess before the end of the race."
The KTM RC Cup also had its second race of the weekend today and two-thirds of the podium was the same as yesterday. The winner was the same in Quarterley Racing/On Track Development's Benjamin Smith with his teammate Draik Beauchamp again finishing second.
Today's margin of victory was closer than yesterday's, with Smith winning by 1.039 seconds. Third place went to Wissel Racing's Tyler Wissel, the first podium finish of his MotoAmerica career.
"I couldn't imagine the season starting any better," Smith said. "To come away with 50 points is a really solid start. The conditions before the race made me rethink my strategy from trying to break away to just battling in the pack. I basically did the same thing as yesterday, and on the last couple laps I put my head down to see if I could break the draft down the back straightaway so when I got to the final couple corners I could just hold on. It worked out."
The 2017 MotoAmerica Series resumes, May 12-14, with the Championship of Virginia at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Virginia.